When I woke up in the morning I felt oddly refreshed. More lively and light-hearted than I had been in what felt like ages. After taking a shower and getting a good breakfast from the local market, making sure to give Salamede no room to complain this time as I ate a whole fish and some chicken soup, I headed back to the workshop.
I took out the woodblock from the magnet poles end and pushed the water wheel. As I looked over the now constant motion of the wheel I made a big decision. While painful, I probably was going to have to scrap this. This design had too much dead weight and I needed more power if I was going to be setting up any machinery to run on it. Fortunately, I at least had the foresight to make the most precious component, the bags of holding, easily taken out with the manipulation of a few stone screws.
Having all of these inter moving parts was severely limiting the potential of this machine. I needed something that solely moved from the sudden weight of the bags. Wading out into the knee-high water of my homes dock area, I turned the bag I was holding upside down. The square cap was pushed to the side into the open position and a stream of water shot out into the river. But the bag didn't immediately slam out of my hand from the movement inside its own mini dimension.
So the negation effect applied to the momentum of objects inside the bag and their weight, even if it's moving inside of it towards the exit. That meant that If I wanted to employ the weight differences in my machine it would have to use a bowl or bag around the exit to hold that water then let it slosh back from whence it came on the upward motion of the wheel.
I spent a few hours taking my machine apart and assembling its successor. This version had the 8 bags replacing the fans with L shaped blocks of wood. On the end of these wood shapes were the bags of holding with a thin stone vase sealed tight over the bags heads. Unfortunately, this design forced me to use metal magic to sense and then pull the metal caps into the open position.
This spun the magnet at the end far faster, producing a consistent stream of sparks and even getting some heat from the coils and the standalone copper wire. I started thinking over a new design as I held the wheel in place to summon a stone block to stop the motion.
An air pump. I could make a crude air pump to fill a cannister and have a piston at the end. Depending on how maneuverable it was I could get a lot done. Maybe I could even lower the metal magics mana requirements enough that I could finish out the vine suit.
As I was roughing out a design of something that looked like a rivet gun with a square head for the air piston to shape the metal, Salamede came back into the workshop.
"Eli, you ready for the parade? " She came in with a bright red dress with a modest cut.
Oh yeah. I forgot about that whole thing with Ryan getting recognized for his bravery.
"Parade?" I asked with spirit magic.
"Oh yes. There's going to be a big parade through the center of the town. Ryan is going to be on a horse-pulled stand in the middle of the procession. You coming?" She asked as she stood there with both her hands cupped in front of her.
"Nah I-" I started my rejection, but then I considered what having a parade with a lot of mages attending meant. After the raid cleanup, I could get away with sucking in the surrounding mana because the mages went back to avoiding the working-class areas like their poverty was catching and the peasants couldn't see mana. The fact that the wealthier nobles were having their items suffer mana shortages at the fancier inns nearer to the academy was a testament to my greed.
"Sure." I said as I got up from the workbenches stool and put on my student robe I kept to the side.
As we were coming up onto the main floor Salamede put out her hands like she wanted me to put my arm through hers.
I accepted with a smile. As we went out towards the main street leading from the bridge straight towards the academy the crowds were already jostling and milling about the various vendors either selling flags stamped with Ryans likeness or various snacks and meats. For a while, I and Salamede joined the chaos, sampling various grilled meats and fruity drinks that were said to be specialties from the coast.
Eventually, a guard blew the horn announcing that the parade was officially starting. But as I went to get one of the flags to wave Salamede pulled me back and gave me a severe look.
"What?" I asked.
"Don't forget who the real hero of this celebration is." She said, moving closer to me and fussing at some dirt I had gotten on my face.
"I won't. But whatever the actual situation, he's still a scion who put his neck on the line for the peasants. Should we not encourage that attitude?" I asked as I patted her arm.
She huffed unhappily at this while thinking it over. After a few seconds, she relented.
"Fine," She said bitterly. I gave her arm another pat and went to get my flag. Coming back I saw the crowd nearer to the academy was now moving aside as a long line of horses pulled a wooden platform along the road. The bright sun reflected off of bits of confetti being tossed into the air by the crowd and some women in gold-embroidered dresses near the moving platform. The occasional water or fire displays of the entertainers went off in front of the carriage.
On top of the dark wood platform was Ryan. He was in full battle armor and the lion head of the hammer was clear to see as the hammer was held in his hands in an almost cradled position. Occasionally Ryan would raise his hand and wave to the crowd, who would, in turn, go wild at his attention.
Behind him were Tansen in his typical sapphire encrusted black kimono and a blonde woman who looked like an older version of Veronica wearing a black top with a grey dress bottom. As they passed by us I felt eyes on me but as I looked around the crowd I couldn't see who it was. The feeling quickly passed and I just put it down to one of my typical minders keeping tabs on me.
Eventually, the platform made it's way to the bridge and I saw Tansen step forward on the end of the platform that was now facing the crowd.
"Today we celebrate the bravery one of our best. Today we commemorate the human spirit that shows us that even at our worst, there is still the ray of light showing us at our best. Ryan, please step forward." Tansen motioned for the walking mountain to come to him. At this Ryan stood at the front of the edge of the platform and took a knee.
"By the decree of the Coalition, you are to be given official recommendations for both military and civil service." Tansen said as he took a scroll from one of the women on the platform and handed it to Ryan. A great cheer went up from the crowd as he Rose to accept. I joined in clapping while Salamede gave a lighter clap with a strained smile.
Ryan then came down from the platform and was greeted with a wave of various personages and their handshakes. Some had the dark green typical to the military while some had the red, blue, brown, or light green robes, vests, and other assorted apparel that made sure to announce their wearers' magical status to all who would lay eyes on them. Those were probably representatives from various mage associations looking to contend with the military for his membership into their organizations.
I had to admit, there was a certain bitterness to seeing the people who wouldn't even deign to look at me shower him with praise for what I had done. But looking at Salamedes' increasingly sour expression I was getting worried she would charge into the lot of them to get me that praise so I had to move quickly to avert disaster.
"Salamede, didn't you want to go to the parade to relax and have fun?." I asked.
"I did. I just thought seeing you not upset about this" She motioned towards Ryan as he shook the hand of a greying mustached man whose metals on his steel armor screamed 'important general'.
"Would make me feel better about it." She finished.
Truth be told I was rather conflicted. At first, I was bitter at my lack of recognition. Then I considered all the trouble that it would bring to me and dropped it. Still...
Whatever my internal conflict, right now I needed to be the calm one right now.
"Hey, there was a vendor selling this wine-soaked, fire-lizard steaks. Wanna try it out?" I asked, giving her arm a slight pull. She looked at me and back towards Ryan. Then she nodded with a saddened expression.
The rest of the time we spent trying out various delicacies and enjoying various shows and treats.
One of the vendors even had incense which I bought up and promptly stored on my person. This went on until the sun got low in the sky and I could tell Salamede was getting near the end of her endurance.
"I'm getting kind of tired, I think I'll head on home," I said with a stretch as we looked at one craft that put water shaped into fish swimming over the crowd's heads.
"Indeed, this has been quite wonderful though," She said as we meshed arms again as we walked.
"Yep" I said as we separated at the bend in the road that marked the split in our journey. we waved each other goodbye before heading to our separate homes. Coming in I did a few more hours of mana crystal summoning before heading to bed.
The next morning I headed out to the classes to do some more mandatory lectures and to get more information on the local weather cycle, lest I get caught unaware on a subject I should obviously know now that I was branching further out into the world. As I headed through the dual doors of the main entrance I saw a group of women snickering at me. When I turned towards them, they covered their mouths and shuffled off.
I was getting at my patience end for school-age drama so I didn't bother pursuing the matter and headed towards the repository for the local affairs and issues section. Going through the books I eventually found what I was looking for. It was a world magic theory book that tried to come up with reasons for this "Necrosis".
Going through it the author explained the gist of it in the opening paragraphs. When this world's winter went into effect, the trees would... retract. I read it over several times to make sure I was seeing what my eyes were telling me I was reading. Yes, apparently at winters start the trees begin a several day's long process of retreating into the earth, making the land look like it had suffered from scars of bark. During this time the earth would then flood with a wave of low-tier healing magic.
This would then have the dead re-animated to try and eat every bit of meat they could get their now moving hands on. I thought about that for a few minutes. In the coming months, there are going to be hordes of fossils underneath my feet struggling and moving in the dirt trying to get out. The thought had no practical purpose as these fossils were without any means of escape, but still, it was damn creepy.
It then went on to explain how Dunwich, the town I was unfortunate enough to first encounter, was a typical gathering point for the dead. Why they were attracted to the place was anyone's guess but the town enjoyed special tax breaks and incentives to get people to live there and help cull the dead.
The other main countermeasure was having the dead burned to cinders so that they would take a huge amount of healing magic to reanimate. This helped absorb enough of the planets healing magic wave to help mitigate the effects on the dead wildlife. I tried to process how this would all work on a cellular level but I had one far too exciting project at home to spend more time on this.
After my classes were completed I started heading out to leave the building but bumped up against by a bigger student, which meant he came up to eye level, with brown hair and green eyes.
"Watch it goat fucker." He shot back before stalking off.
Some of the surrounding students chuckled at the insult. I stood there a long moment, trying to decide whether to retort or threaten but the siren call of progress could be heard from my workshop and I was at a point where I didn't really care about what the rumor mill was spouting. I just went and leaned against the building's smooth white wall away from the others until the next group was available to leave.
Coming back home I spent the next several hours working on the internal components for the air valve, the canister, and the piston. I didn't have a voltmeter or any other equipment to measure the electrical output. Yet another item on the list.
Then my train of thought wandered on what I had lost. To go from being able to run dozens of simulations at the speed of my mind to just plugging it in and hoping it works was quite the fall from grace. A tired sigh was I could give and got back to work.
I connected the copper wires to the crude air pumps electric motor and removed the stone pillar stopping the spin. The magnet couched in copper wires attached to the wood pole spun it and moved the piston in an up and down motion in the cylinder. It took a few attempts as the inlet valves either blew out from the pressure when closed or the outlet valve didn't open when at capacity.
But finally, I had a good airflow going and could attach it to the thick canister, done in a typical rounded design with a separate piece at the bottom to hold the piston as well as allow it to be manually put back into firing position. Getting that to release properly and not have pieces fly everywhere had been an arduous task that put me near my limits. Sweat was running down my face and slicked my hands as my back ached from all of this grueling manual labor but I couldn't stop now that it was all coming together.
I screwed on the attachment between the air pump and the canister. Then I made a stone bench to hold the air pump overhead and have the piston slam a few inches above the table with the cannister was also encased in two rings of stone on the top and bottom to hold it in place. After a silent prayer, I cut the mana flow to the stone block stoping the bags of holding power generator. The pump stopped moving as the canister was filled to rough capacity. Pressing the switch, the steel piston head slammed down with a solid thunk.
All right, now for the real test. I placed an iron bar below the piston heads position. It slammed down leaving a big dent. After a few more attempts I got it into a rough ring shape. Using the metal magic craft I shaped it into the needed form for the more compact generator I was designing. This time the amount of mana needed was almost trivial in comparison to shaping with solely through magic.
The desire to push on through to the end was strong but I had been pushing the entire day to get this done. Making sure my new invention was securely in place, I headed out for a good dinner but along the way, I saw a small entourage of guards with a raven on their cloaks around a pudgy man.
He had the white and blue dress of an academy student. He had blond hair and green eyes but what drew my eyes was the finger he was rudely shoving into her green dresses left shoulder. I walked through the road and came up to the small group. One of the guards motioned for me to stop but I just kept coming. Apparently I made quite the impression when I killed the two prisoners, as the guard paled and tapped on the student's shoulder for his attention.
"What?!" the student demanded, his turning motion stopped when he saw me.
"God to think you're allowed to call your self mage. Even the very mana itself doesn't want to be seen in this shit hole." He said dismissively as he stepped towards me.
I just continued walking until I was a few inches from his face. His eyes showed fear when my hand with the arm guard outstretched towards him.
"Back the fuck up!"
Variations of these two phrases were repeated by the surrounding guards as they drew their swords. But the student just got a haughty look, although the glint of fear in his eyes was plain for all to see.
"Are you threatening me, crafter?" He demanded, his voice low.
"Threaten? Me? Should not an inferior make the first move to greet their superior?" I asked, in as innocent a tone as I could manage. His eyes darted towards my hand again to see that the hands' position to cut someone in half and to shake their hand was the same.
"Yes indeed." He said with a strained smile as he shook the hand. Then he released the smallest portion of a water spray, a spray so small I wouldn't have noticed it if not for the minute blue glow of a water mana construct, brushed up against the metal and leather arm guard. Having 'killed' my craft, we both relaxed. Him from the new false sense of safety and me from the knowledge that I could hit him with my water jet before he would have time to understand that it still worked.
"What brings you to our humble side of town," I said looking briefly at Salamede. She seemed nervous but she was holding her position in the doorway. I turned to look at him again.
He gave a light cough.
"I am here to demand compensation, in coin or honor," He said, sticking out his chin.
"What?" I asked, as I went over where at any point I may have even seen this man before.
"When you brought those things" He waved dismissively towards Salamede " to the academy during the raid, you lot blocked my path and even bumped against me. I am here to make right the wrong committed against me." He finished.
I just stood there for a moment trying to make sure I heard him right. When I confirmed that I had heard what my ears were telling me he said my first impulse was too just finish this argument by cutting him in half. But I was at a complete disadvantage, even if I won this fight. I had no backers and getting into it with any house, no matter how small, would be a disaster for me. It would shortly come out that I had no one to fight for me, economically, legally, or militarily. The consequences of that piece of information becoming widely known would be many and varied, but they would almost certainly all be bad.
I nodded and gave a slight bow.
"Well, I am so sorry that you had to come all the way down here." was as much of an apology that I would give.
He looked like he wanted to punch me, but just huffed in irritation instead.
"I'm not here for an apology from you. I want this goat-thing to make proper compensation. Money or hard labor will be acceptable." he said.
Salamede stepped forward.
"This is a poor area, maybe we can-"
Salamede's rough voice was interrupted as the fat piece of shit backhanded her.
"I swear, some things ar-" He started but as I moved to within an inch of his face his voice died in his throat.
"Eli, just don't" Salamede warned me.
I took a deep breath. Come on Eli, remember all that stuff you said one minute ago.
Besides, I was too tired to take him and his entourage on without killing them via water-jet dissection.
The only thing I could think to do was fold my arms while making it look like I was holding onto something up my sleeve. The previous arrogance of the man dissipated. As I had hoped, my abilities as a maker of magical items were widely known and his eyes told me he was now weighing the possibility of coming up against some crazy new item that he couldn't shut off in time before I used it on him.
We both stood there for a moment before the pudgy guy relented.
"Hmmpf, well, it's not like you guys have any honor or money to give anyway." He said looking at us both with contempt before stomping off with his contingency of guards.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"Yeah, just watch your back, Ok," She said before giving me a hug.
Afterward, I headed back towards the food market to get my dinner. Returning from my chicken soup and bread, I proceeded back into my workshop to put the incense sticks in a circle around the piston and generator. It didn't have the requisite code intake or other typical things but it met the bare requirements.
"Guide us through till the end, Gods' craft. See us through this time of tribulation until the last code is made, the piece put in, and our task is finished. Amen" I said as the harsh incense filled my nostrils. Getting up off the floor and throwing the used incense sticks into the water, I went back upstairs to go to bed.